Barnsley vs Rotherham | Saturday 24th April 2021, 15:00
A huge game from the Championship where Barnsley look set to confirm their place in the play offs whilst Rotherham are running out of games to avoid relegation. The Millers have slowly seen their games in hand come and go without collecting the points needed to put pressure on the sides above them. However, it’s not the results that is alarming, it’s the underlying performance.
The Millers have played Coventry, Birmingham and Middlesbrough over the last eight days and have managed just two shots on target, both against Boro, who had nothing to play for. This time out they face Barnsley who are almost certain of a playoff place but need another three points to confirm it.
Currently in 22nd, they are four points adrift of safety with five games left to play. Paul Warne's side do have two games in hand over 21st-placed Derby County, who appear in absolute freefall, but they must start picking up points themselves to stand any chance of staying in the second tier. It’s now or never for the Millers as they need a victory more than ever.
Warne has said in the press this week when talking about the Boro defeat “We're going to have to lick our wounds, it's going to hurt me for a bit and it's hurt our players, we have to try and pick them up again on Saturday and attempt another cup final.”
However, he has said that in the last three games, and nothing has change. It’s not like they have been banging down the door and just failing to score, both Coventry and Boro racked up a xG of over 2.0 with Rotherham looking toothless in attack.
It’s now just three wins from their last 15 games, yet people are suggesting that they might win three of their last five games to stay up. I just don’t see it.
Barnsley's remarkable run of form since the beginning of February, winning 12 and losing just two of their 16 matches. Over this run of 16 games, no side in the championship has collected more points than them, won more games and only Norwich and Watford have conceded fewer goals.
At Oakwell no side in the championship concedes fewer shots or shots on target and they have kept eight clean sheets with a record of W11-D5-L5, with three of the five defeats coming against sides currently in the top five. As I have mentioned, Rotherham failed to register a shot on target in two of the last three games.
Barnsley manager Valerien Ismael has been very clear in his latest press conference. “We’ve got three games left now. It’s a great challenge to finish the job now”. I don’t see them taking their foot of the gas now and its always important to go into the play offs in strong and consistent form.
The Tykes have won just one of their last four games at Oakwell, dropping points to other lowly teams Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday in recent matches. However, the other games have been a win over Middlesbrough and a very decent point and performance against Reading, who are chasing them for the last playoff place. I can’t see them taking their eye off the ball here.
The odds on a Barnsley to win have drifted all week and are now as low as 4/6 with Bet365. However, Rotherham have collected at least one card in 17 or 19 games on the road this season with an average of 1.58.
Its game they can’t afford to lose and as we have seen in the Millers last few games, frustration often gets the better of them. Only Birmingham commits more fouls on the road and with Gavin Ward in charge of the fixture it increases the likelihood of cards as he hands out an average of 3.70, giving the away team at least one card in 19 of his 20 Championship games this season.
With Barnsley to win and Rotherham over 0.5 cards this pushes our bet to 4/5 with William Hill
Charlton vs Peterborough | Saturday 24th April 2021, 15:00
A massive game in League One as Charlton and Peterborough clash at the Valley. The Addicks are now undefeated in their last 10 games despite being forced to change manager as Lee Bowyer departed for Birmingham and Nigel Adkins was brought in.
Charlton now sit 6th but just one point ahead of Oxford and Portsmouth but are in fine form beating Plymouth 6-0 last time out and also defeating Sunderland on the road, so they won’t be concerned with playing Posh desperate for three points in their push for automatic promotion.
The Addicks haven’t had the best of home form this term with W6-D6-L7 whilst 19 of their 23 home points have come against sides in the bottom half the division, there is no doubt this will be a tough test for Charlton.
However, they are hitting form at just the right time with 22 points from the last 10 matches and this is automatic promotion form, it’s just too late for them to catch Hull City or Saturday’s visitors, but they do have momentum and confidence and Adkins has helped give them both. “We sent a statement out,” was the post-match verdict of Alex Gilbey, “After tonight I think Peterborough are not going to want to be playing us.” This comment shows the level of confidence within the squad.
Conor Washington, Ian Maatsen and Ryan Inniss are all set to be back available which means that the Addicks have almost a fully fit squad to select from.
Posh suffered defeat at home to Gillingham midweek and will now be looking over their shoulder at Sunderland and Lincoln who are now both seven points behind, a defeat here would make that gap very uncomfortable going into the last three games, especially as they are still to play Lincoln.
Posh have lost eight times on the road this season conceding in 13 of their 21 matches, but six of these clean sheets have come against sides in the bottom half, in fact only Oxford and Ipswich from the top half have failed to score when they welcomed the Posh to their home ground. Their record against the top eight sides on the road is W1-D2-L3.
Manager Darren Ferguson has said that his side have nothing to fear about playing Charlton and says his side look fit and will be looking to win the game. However, neither side can afford to lose given where they sit in the promotion race and so few games left. It’s going to be a tense game and I am looking at a card angle here.
The Addicks collect 2.05 cards per home game this season and have been awarded one or more cards in 16 of 19 of those games with two or more cards in 13. In their last five home games they have collected at least two cards.
Their home games average 4.16 cards and no side has been awarded more red cards at home in the division with five. They sit 4th for most fouls committed at home and are the 3rd most fouled side.
Posh average 1.25 cards per away game and have collected one or more in 14 of 20 away games. Their hosts average 2.2 cards and have collected one or more in 19 of 20 games this season. Their away games average 3.45. Posh are the 5th most fouled away side this season.
Both sides look likely to pick up cards given their record over the season and the importance of the match.
The referee is Keith Stroud. In the EFL this season he has handed out an average of 3.2 cards per game, but in his last six games he had handed out four or more cards in four of these games.
I am going to take both sides to collect at least one card each and then four or more match cards at even money with William Hill.
Cambridge vs Stevenage | Saturday 24th April 2021, 15:00
I am going back to the Abbey Stadium for my last bet. Cambridge are just one win away from securing promotion to League One, which will be guaranteed with victory against Stevenage on Saturday.
The U’s have picked up 22 points from their last ten matches to move them within touching distance of the third tier of English football and they have done this the hard way with each of their last seven matches have been against sides in the top half.
Their manager, Mark Bonner believes his side have taken their game to “another level” during their promotion run in. “We’ve come out the right side of so many close games, because of a bit of quality, or a real togetherness. “I don’t know if there is an added motivation, but there’s certainly a real motivation, knowing what the outcome of the game and a positive result could bring us.” I can’t see anything but a home win here.
The hosts have a home record of W11-D5-L5. If you are a regular reader of my column, you will know that I have written about Wes Hoolahan and how he is key to their success. Of the five home defeats that they have suffered, three of them Hoolahan didn’t play.
Cambridge have collected 77 points this season and in the 16 games that Hoolahan hasn’t played they have collected just 18 points. In the 26 games that he has played they have a record of W17-D5-L4 and at home with him playing they sit W11-D3-L2 that’s a win rate of 64%. The hosts tend to rest him midweek and then play him at the weekend again – Hoolahan hasn’t played a midweek match this year. It’s all set up for a win on Saturday.
Since February Stevenage have been in good form. After 27 games there were in danger of being dragged into a relegation scrap as they sat 21st and six points off 23rd placed Southend. However, a run of six wins from 12 games has pushed them clear and into the safety of lower mid-table. A change of manager from Graham Westley to Alex Revell in February has considered with the upturn in results.
Yet they have an away record of W4-D10-L7 with a return when travelling to the top half sides of W2-D4-L5. On the road they have scored just 13 goals, seven of which have come when visiting the bottom half clubs. They have failed to score in nine of 21 games conceded in 12. However, only once on the road have, they scored two or more goals and that was at rock bottom Grimsby and that was in January.
It’s no surprise to see that no side have taken more shots or shots on target and their away xG ratio is 39%, with just Colchester having a lower ratio. Defensively, despite the reasonably good defensive display I have them 21st for xGA and 20th for shots on target conceded. Cambridge should have chances and if they score twice, I am convinced looking at the data and past results the game is over.
It looks like Stevenage know that their season is over. They have now lost their last three games, scoring just once, with a total of six shots on target and a combined xG of 2.17 or 0.72 per match, whilst conceding a xGA greater than 1.0 in each of those game with 29 shots conceded.
Cambridge are odds against to win this match and the bookies have dismissed them all season, yet a win here and they are promoted. 53/50 with SBK looks a great bet.
Barnsley vs Rotherham – Barnsley to win and Rotherham Over 0.5 Cards (4/5 William Hill)
Charlton vs Peterborough – Both Teams Over 0.5 Cards and Over 3.5 Cards (1/1 William Hill)
Cambridge vs Stevenage – Cambridge to win (53/30 SBK)